Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Christ painted as 'Savior of the World,' was called a rediscovered masterpiece...and now its location is unknown. This artwork's bizarre saga involves an image of Jesus getting a near-half-billion dollar world record auction price from a Saudi bidder at Christie's, plus authenticity naysayers, gushing conservators, public adulation, conspiracy theories, a Texas museum fail, a consortium of art dealers, a $380 million lawsuit against Sotheby's, a litigious Palm Beach-Monaco billionaire from Russia, an embattled Swiss "freeport king" and a secretive buyer who is drumming up even more intrigue by not disclosing its location and not commenting at all.
Few facts are clear about "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci except that the artwork sold for a mind-boggling $450.3 million in November 2017, reportedly to a prince on behalf of the ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Soon after the auction, the Abu Dhabi culture department said it would display the portrait at its Louvre branch, but then canceled the exhibit with no explanation.
Museum officials have had no comment, or said they haven't seen the work, which has led to speculation about the controversial painting's whereabouts. Questions remain over whether it will surface for the upcoming major da Vinci blockbuster at the Louvre in Paris. (Leonardo's 17 known paintings, along with other works, are to be brought together to mark the 500th anniversary year of his death.)
From the New York Times:
Noting that it was never clear how Abu Dhabi might have acquired the painting from the Saudis in the first place — whether by a gift, loan or private sale — some have speculated that Crown Prince Mohammed might simply have decided to keep it. The Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment.